Foundation warns people not to become “slack” in fight against HIV/AIDS; will take outreach to the Family Islands


Tribune Features Writer


THE Bahamas AIDS Foundation is planning to take its efforts to the Family Islands as it seeks to educate more Bahamians on the disease.

Lady Camille Barnett, president of the Foundation, was a guest speaker on the Bahamas National AIDS Programme’s monthly webinar hosted by Keith Kemp, a prevention officer with the programme.

The webinar focused on the foundation’s work and highlighted the initiatives it labours consistently to accomplish.

Since its inception, the Bahamas AIDS Foundation has been on a mission to facilitate HIV prevention and intervention strategies in the country, including the elimination of mother to child transmission, HIV/AIDS education, training, research, support and advocacy and the reduction of HIV transmission.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last two years saw HIV/AIDS relegated to the back bench, almost forgotten, Lady Barnett said.

Nevertheless, the Doundation’s mandate must be accomplished. Since the latter part of 2021, the Foundation made a conscious decision to focus on education and awareness. Now that it has been awarded a grant, it can reach people in the Family Islands and educate them, especially the at-risk populations, on the disease.

Before COVID-19, the foundation started an initiative travelling to of the islands. With the new grant, it is hoping to resume these activities.

“We will of course be looking to the Ministry of Health to help us do what we call AIDS 101 with adults, teenagers and the younger kids on the island,” said Lady Barnett.

“I know over the years from going to certain islands that there is a need for education on those islands. So, we look forward to partnering with them in that way. People on the Family Islands are very grateful when you go out there because they feel forgotten.”

Lady Barnett said the Family Islands are a very important component in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“We want to do more education, especially among some of the more vulnerable populations. Several years ago we ran a very successful programme called the Men’s Health Initiative Programme. It was geared towards MSM (men who have sex with men). And all of the participants said they had a great time,” she said.

“In many respects the programme created peer education as well. So they went out in the community and educate others. We would love to be able to do that again.”

Lady Barnett said she wants to sound the alarm and encourage people to not be slack concerning their sexual health as HIV/AIDS is still a very real disease.

“There is still no cure out there. HIV/AIDS is still out there. Everyone needs to know there status so that they can stay negative or take the next steps if they are positive. It is still important to know the status of your partner, to have one partner and to stay faithful to that one partner, unless you choose to be abstinent. Both messages are still important so we need to get out there,” she said.

During the recent virtual event, the Foundation also made an appeal for people to donate of their time and resources if they are able to.

Lady Barnett said the Foundation needs the public and private entities to continue to support all of its fundraising events, which are diverse. The Foundation hosts something for every pocketbook, from the annual raffle, to its ball, the fun run/walk and more. This time around they are adding a happy hour element to their fun run/walk initiative. More details will be announced at a later date.

The Foundation currently runs an after-school activities for young clients who have been infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Through this programme, young clients have access to computers, a hot meal, trained tutors, peer group support, job preparation sessions, life skills group workshops, and medicine adherence support.

Lady Barnett said anyone who has certain skills and is willing to share them with young people is invited to do so with the Foundation.

“We are always looking for people with certain skills who are willing to pass those skills on to young people. The carpenter, the mason, the plumber…we want our kids to have something that will make them marketable,” she said.


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